Ilma International, a leading Muslim private girls school in Colombo Sri Lanka, has been preaching a fundamentalist Islamic ideology to its children, the Colombo Telegraph learns.
The school, housed at the heart of Colombo has for decades provided Islamic education to Muslim girls.
However, deviating from traditional Sri Lankan and South East Asian Muslims, the school together with many other such Muslim schools spread around the country have deviated to Salafist- Wahabist teachings over the past decade, causing concern among Muslims, according to parents who spoke to Colombo Telegraph.
The rise of extremist movements in Sri Lanka has been systematic with the earliest reports coming from the late 90’s.
However the rise has been exponential in the past 7 years, according sociologists.
The ‘black face veil or the Burqa is seen as a symbol of this rising radicalism together with the recent revelation by Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi.
The Defence Secretary in a communique earlier this year said that 36 Muslims have left the shores to fight for ISIS a terror group calling for a global re-unification of Muslims.
” This sort of this happening from Sri Lanka is just mind blowing. The Muslims here lived in peace and freedom and have never ever been accused of moving away from the local culture or associating themselves with global terror,” Mohomed Ameer told Colombo Telegraph.
Many Muslims in Sri Lanka who defend the extremist ideologies invoked by Saudi, are in complete denial of the causal link between the ” face covering” ideology and the men who left to fight for the ISIS.
*Video via Channel 4 News
In this VIDEO fundamentalist Muslims in the United Kingdom while using verses to propagate fascism also deny that there is a link between their ideology and terrorism. When one Muslim confronts a radical and says ” you are recruiting for ISIS”, the radical looks at the Channel 4 crew and asks ” have you ever seen me do that?”, much akin to Lankan Muslims in complete denial of the causal link.
According to Sri Lankan military sources all 36 men and their extended families adhere to the strict and fundamentalist interpretation of the Quran.
“All of them and their extended families lived under strict Islamic rule. Some dont have chairs in the house, not because of poverty, but because apparently there were no chairs during the time of the Prophet. Almost all the women and their extended families wore a Burqa or a black garb” an officer said.
The rise in the Burqa, which was not prevalent in the country over a decade ago is also a significant factor in understanding the nature of the fundamentalist.
“Lankan Muslim women always wore the saree or the Shalwar Kameez for centuries. I dont think anyone in our generation or the previous generation remember seeing women in black garbs in Sri Lanka. This is something alien and was only seen in Saudi” a sociologist told the Colombo Telegraph.
According to many academics the new wave of Islam is an attempt to resist the ‘perceived western domination’ .
” The fact that the Muslim empires suffered defeat, economic, political and military defeat at the hands of western forces is one reason which fuelled this in the early 1900. The ideology was to completely negate themselves or resist any western influence and go back to the ages of Muslim domination which radical Islam believes was best. Its a paradox of sorts. They want a future that lives in the past, defying any sane logic or rationale” the Colombo Telegraph was told on condition of anonymity.
Earlier last year a Muslim poet and activist Sharmila Seyyid was forced to flee the country after being ” hounded by Mullahs”. The poet who is a mother of one and wrote her poetry in Tamil had been threatned repeteatedly by fundamentalist elements in her hometown in Batticaloa.
” This has never been the case and its alarming that the authorities didnt even pay due regard to this. Muslims of Sri Lanka have been a very vibrant part of the Lankan literature and culture. Never were their people imposing their beliefs systems on other Muslims. Those days a mosque festival used to be where the Sinhalese Tamil and Muslim children came to play and enjoy while the elders were reciting in the mosque. It was actually a feast with lights and decorations but today how many do we see?’ MAM Ismail a resident of Kandy told the Colombo Telegraph.
The city of Kattankudy, a city in the East of Sri Lanka is seen also as a symbol of a complete fundamentalist turn. Columnist Izeth Hussain writing to the Colombo Telegraph last year provided in detail accounts of date trees being planted in the area and the extent of the fundamentalism.
Many other ” Muslim” schools which come under the supervision of the education ministry are also propagating fundamentalist and segregationist ideals according sources.
” The school uniform of a Muslim girl was always a shawl around the bosom and long trousers. How many Muslims do you see dressed like that now?. How many Muslim students do you dressed in fully white face veils? This is not fear mongering but its the truth. Muslim leaders have kept their mouths shut about this because they fear backlash or they don’t want to ruffle any feathers given the nonsense that racist groups like the Bodu Bala Sena and others are promoting” a parent told Colombo Telegraph on the condition of anonymity.
According to many, Muslim students either wear the black face veil or the white face veil depending on the criteria set by the school, completely in ignorance of the segregation it causes.
Researches believe that moderate Muslims fear to take any stand against the rise in fundamentalism which draws parallels with fascist ideologies.
” These people are violent and they will quote the Quran as and when they could. Traditional peace loving Muslims are in fear to take this on because the backlash can be crazy. They just dont want to argue on the Quran, but the fact is that even the ISIS quotes the Quran. So who is to justify any nonsense that they do by quoting the Quran or the Bible or any other text? how can you.” Ameer asked.
The Colombo Telegraph learns that despite attention being drawn to these reports, Muslim ministers have shied away from addressing due to fear of backlash.
The rise in Sinhala racism also has led to Muslim leaders shying away from addressing the issue due to fear of “giving in”.
” The fact is there is a problem. This problem must be addressed. The Bodu Bala Sena should not be the reason it must be addressed but for the longevity and freedom of all Muslims. Because if it is not addressed, Sinhala racism against Muslims is only going to rise”, Ameer said.
Many social media activist also pointed out the lack of Muslim youth voices in quelling the extremism coming from among the Muslims.
” If you take Sinhala racism, the opposition comes from the Sinhalese itself. Even if its Tamil seperatism on social media its the Tamil community who first raise the flag and then joined by either racist or moderate Sinhalese. But what is alarming is the silence of Muslims. Muslims just do not ever speak against this and its on one hand sad and on the other very alarming”, Channa Abeetha Dahanayanke a researcher on anthropology and social media trends told the Colombo Telegraph.
She blamed the lack of education among the Lankan Muslims.
” Even among the educated they lack any knowlegde of religion except the dictas of the Quran. Islam is much more than that, and anyone reading a religion will know the literature, culture, how rules were imposed etc. None of these people know this. The kids in Madrasas are only thought to read the Quran. Not a word of the culture, the reasonings for rules, other religions, philosophy is taught. This ignorance is not only prevalent in rural areas but even many Colombo Muslims have no clue about anything else except rules” Dahanayake said.
Following is a meeting in which a letter of one parent sent to Ilma International against the fundamentalist practices promoted in the school is being read out.